Gov. Perry honors shale pioneer George Mitchell

The Texas House of Representatives honored a shale drilling pioneer Monday, calling George P. Mitchell a man who has changed the world.

Mitchell, who will turn 94 later this month, wasn’t at the ceremony, although his daughter, Sheridan Lorenz, her husband, and representatives of Mitchell’s energy company and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation were there on his behalf.

Gov. Rick Perry made a rare appearance on the House floor to honor Mitchell, whose dogged work with hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett Shale unleashed the natural gas resources there, leading to the oil and gas renaissance that has boosted the state’s bottom line.

“There is no one I know that is making a bigger difference than George Mitchell,” Perry said.

Mitchell was instrumental in redeveloping many of Galveston’s tourist destinations, including The Strand, Perry noted. He also developed The Woodlands.

But many members of the Legislature know him for his work in hydraulic fracturing drilling technology.

Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, offered the resolution honoring Mitchell.

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“Mr. Mitchell’s research will make the United States a net exporter of energy in the next five years,” Eiland said.

But Mitchell also focused on sustainability, and most of the grants from his foundation involve sustainability or clean energy.

In accepting the honor for her father, Sheridan Lorenz said he wants Texas to become a global leader in clean energy.

The Mitchells and the foundation together have distributed or pledged more than $400 million to various causes, programs and institutions, most of them science and sustainability science-related projects.

Marilu Hastings, environment program director for the foundation, said the foundations current interests include water conservation, carbon capture and sequestration for gas- and coal-fired electric plants, and a project to integrate renewable and natural gas plants into the electric grid.

The foundation also is funding a project to recommend updating Texas Railroad Commission regulations to meet current needs, now that shale drilling is so prevalent.

“Our perspective is these activities are safe,” Hastings said. “They can be improved and risk minimized.”

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She said the recommendations would go beyond those urged by the Sunset Advisory Commission, which are under consideration by the Legislature.

Hastings said the Railroad Commission already has made changes over the past 18 months.

“They’re updating already,” she said. “They deserve a lot of credit.”

But she said this project, which involves work from the Aspen Institute, six companies, three environmental organizations and three academic petroleum engineering departments, would go further. It is due by the end of the year.

Mitchell’s goal, she said, is for Texas to be the national leader in regulating drilling.